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2016’s Living On Less fundraiser: join EAs around the world getting sponsored to eat for under $2.50 a day

Some of you may be interested in taking part in or publicly making your donations (fee free for large annual pledges) through this year’s EA Living On Less fundraiser. Above and beyond the good done by any counterfactual money you raise, it's an unusually good opportunity to spread the word about top charities and effective altruism more broadly - something it's rare to find an excuse to do. Here are the details:

What: Spend only $2.50 a day on food for three days (or vary the amount, or the days, or design your own way to Live On Less not involving food at all). Get sponsored to raise money to fight poverty by supporting the Against Malaria Foundation. You'll find different figures for different currencies below.

Why: Half of the world spends $2.50 or less on food each day. This reflects income levels at which people often can’t afford basic health care. As readers of this forum will know, this is an exceptional opportunity to do good.

Who: People who want to help the global poor and get unique chances to strike up conversations about effective altruism in the process. We think this is an especially good opportunity for local groups and people interested in initiating in-person outreach in their area. Last year two dozen groups took part, often with many people in each one sharing the experience, including through communal meals and group newspaper interviews. This year will be a smaller affair, with fundraisers more spread out through the year; in 2015 I’d made a big push after establishing contact with all local EA groups to establish a decentralised network, whereas we’re making a rather small, rushed and late push this year! But the fundraiser pages will be open all year every year, and in the course of our normal work helping new people start doing in-person EA outreach we’ll work with them to run these fundraisers were appropriate. Groups can form team pages, like this one for EA Vancouver; they can do so the same way they’d make a normal page, but make it in their group’s name and direct members to click “Create your own sponsorship page, linked to this page” on it.

What you can vary: As mentioned earlier, you can vary any of these details: the amount you spend, the number of days and the date. For example, see below for the poverty line version of spending only $1.90.

How: Fill out the form here. Your page will then show up on the list of “linked” Living On Less fundraisers at this AMF page. . Then ask friends and family to sponsor you; we’ll send pre-written emails, along with recipes and other pointers to help you help the most people possible. We’ve provided default text for your fundraiser page that you can paste in or adapt here, or you can write your own. Some of you may be familiar with CauseVox’s much prettier fundraiser pages - we have a version of these all set up, so if you’d prefer to use it then just ask us at livingonless@eahub.org. (We’re not providing the link by default as we’re phasing out our own use of CauseVox to save time. Note that CauseVox pages will send funds to Deworm the World rather than AMF.)

When: Whenever you want, throughout the year! We’re suggesting that student groups pick the time which works best for their university schedules, which we’ve found has varied widely. Other groups (and individuals) can pick whenever works best for them, or do Saturday August 20th to Monday August 22nd if they’d like to do it over summer holidays, or when some others will be - yay online solidarity!

(Three groups have done it already: EA Norway got attention from one of the largest national newspapers and raised 27,236 Krone ($3,250); Seattle repeated their approach of having one standard bearer, Beth Crane, who topped the $2,127 she raised last year with $2,440 this year; Tulane took the same approach this year, with Roxanne Heston raising $810.)

Left: What a typical American family eats in a week. Right: What a typical family in Chad eats in a week.

How do you join? - Click Here

Fill out the form here. Your page will then show up on the list of “linked” Living On Less fundraisers at this AMF page. Groups can form team pages, like this one for EA Vancouver; they can do so the same way they’d make a normal page, but make it in their group’s name and direct members to click “Create your own sponsorship page, linked to this page” on it. We’ve provided default text for your fundraiser page that you can paste in or adapt here, or you can write your own. Then ask friends and family to sponsor you; we’ll send pre-written emails, along with recipes and other pointers to help you help the most people possible. If our experience last year is anything to go by, most people will be touched by your dedication to helping those less fortunate and will be happy to help you out.

If even this very first world version of hunger (which is nonetheless quite real for some people, to give fair warning!) is too offputting, you can also take part by publicly making your donations (fee free for large annual pledges) through this year’s fundraiser. You can donate to a specific friend - you can imagine what a conversation starter it’d be if their friends and family saw a $5,000 donation from you! (In fact, we’d love to hear about any conversations at livingonless@eahub.org. We’ve never experimented with suggesting making large donations via fundraisers before, and have no idea how it’ll work out or whether anyone will follow the suggestion. I only have my experience receiving a generous $3,700 sponsorship from my friend Abby last year, which prompted extreme curiosity from my relatives in particular!)

Where does the money go? The Against Malaria Foundation

All funds raised go to the Against Malaria Foundation, which gives out bednets that cost about $5.31 USD and can protect people from malaria, the mosquito borne disease that is one of the leading killers of children in poor countries, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths a year. Malaria parasites cause vomiting, headaches and fever. If left untreated it can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition. Yet it can be prevented very cheaply.

Effective altruists will be familiar with the case for fundraising for the Against Malaria Foundation, as one of the charities that GiveWell recommends as the most effective in the world. Deworming drugs themselves cost around 50 cents and they can cure someone for a year. For more information see GiveWell's detailed review, or my simpler summary on the EA Wiki.

As mentioned above, we’ve set up CauseVox pages fundraising for Deworm the World, so just email us on livingonless@eahub.org if you have a strong preference to fundraise for deworming. For more information on this charity, see GiveWell's detailed review or my simpler summary on the EA Wiki. We are trying to phase out our own use of CauseVox though, so recommend fundraising on AMF’s platform!

What could you possibly eat for only $2.50 a day?

Not much. But that’s kind of the point - the evidence shows that people are much more ready to sponsor those making a sacrifice, and you can see it as like running a marathon for charity. A few people (generally those doing the poverty line version) have even found it comparably hard, though most people taking the $2.50 option have found it manageable with the tips we send. Either way, you’ll be doing something much more related to the cause, and in our experience more thought-provoking for the people that you talk to.

However, it’s not all abstinence. (That’s reserved for the people taking the poverty line version who will spend only $1.90 a day.) We’ll email you meal ideas with full recipes, but for now here’s a few cheap meals people have tried in the past:

  • Rice, beans, and spices or soy sauce
  • Butternut squash pasta
  • Ramen noodles (always a guilty pleasure anyway)
  • Oatmeal with chopped banana

Things you’ll likely have to give up:

  • Starbucks or buying coffee out
  • Restaurants
  • Alcoholic drinks

What are the rules?

The spirit of the event involves reminding yourself and others how many people are living in poverty, and understanding that you can help. As long as it is done in this spirit, do what works for you. If you need to spend a bit more money, you can set your own amount. If you can’t do it on August 20-22, do a different time. If you lapse during your three days, it’s OK. You might even want to mention it on Facebook, talking about how difficult it was. It will help people understand how hard it is to feed yourself on such a small amount, and that’s without the enormous number of other difficulties that those living under the poverty line face, which make hunger and the need to ration food different in kind for them. When you communicate about it, it’s worth emphasising - as we at LEAN are trying our best to do - that the experience is nothing like poverty. We respect different opinions on the subject, but strongly recommend following Julia Wise’s guidelines on depicting poverty.

Why $2.50?

Half of the world lives on less than $1,368 a year. Around 65% of that is spent on food, which means $2.43 a day. We rounded to $2.50 a day, but you can spend only $2.43 if you’d like.

You might have traveled and know that you can buy more for $2.50 overseas. This is a good point, which is why the $2.43 figure is adjusted to how much $2.43 could buy in the USA in 2005. That’s not much. Now imagine that you have to use the remaining $1.75 per day on shelter, transport, healthcare, and entertainment. That’s why we’re running this campaign. Because that’s just too little and we want to change it.

Poverty line version: live on $1.90

$1.90 a day is the international poverty line, so why not try to live on only that for 3 days? This study suggests that people raise more when they suffer more. Suggested amounts for other currencies are right below.

Suggested figures for different countries

You can join from any country, and AMF supports tax-deductible and/or native currency donations from a wider range of countries than almost any other charity. (If you’re interested in efforts to help expand international tax-deductibility and donation ease for a wide range of charities, see our longstanding .impact project for this.) Our suggested amounts for other countries besides the US (for which the default amount is $2.50) are £1.80, €2.25, CA$3.00, and AU$3.25. Our suggested amounts for the poverty line version (for which the US amount is $1.90) are £1.40, €1.80, CA$2.50, and AU$2.70.

Comments (3)

Comment author: casebash 28 June 2016 12:37:08PM 4 points [-]

I think this is a fantastic initiative. One of the difficulties faced by EA is that a significant proportion of the population need to be involved in action in order to be engaged, yet there are currently very few opportunities for this. I'd be very interested in seeing more of these kinds of initiates - the membership engagement potential is far more valuable in my opinion than the amounts of money raised.

Comment author: Andy_Schultz 29 June 2016 01:47:02PM 1 point [-]

The section "Where does the money go?" says it goes to AMF, but it says the charity treats parasitic worms.

Comment author: Tom_Ash  (EA Profile) 29 June 2016 03:32:10PM 0 points [-]

Good catch, that was in from before we switched to AMF and away from CauseVox!